A reflection on Ephesians 3:14-21 for Sunday, August 15, 2020 at Mosaic Baptist Church.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:14-21 (NRSVA)
Paul’s prayer for those who will receive this prison letter is the high point of Ephesians.
The Apostle opened with a celebration of the love and grace of God ‘in Christ’. He then pointed to the end of hostility that this God-love invites humanity to embrace.
Paul’s vision is one of ‘dividing’ walls dismantled – and replaced with an ever growing temple of love. The community who follows – read practices – this reconciling and sacrificial love is the dwelling place of God on earth.
Heaven and earth meet here.
No wonder Paul positions himself as the suffering advocate of the local community of believers. They are the manifestation of a united heaven and earth.
And so Paul prays.
Everything Paul has written so far in Ephesians has led him to this prayer. Everything he will write from here will build on this hope.
The Apostle begins by naming God as the ‘Father’ of every family. This is a bigger vision than God as the parent of all people, or even of all nations. Paul’s is a cosmic vision encompassing everything in all creation. As he says, from this God, ‘every family in heaven and on earth takes its name’.
Paul’s is a big, bold, broad prayer. Everyone and everything in creation originates from this one.
A creative act that defines God as grace.
Paul has confidence in the grace of God. So much so that he asks for more grace. Greed does not motivate this. Rather, it is a deep belief in grace as the Christ-revealed nature of God. Paul can ask for more because he knows God’s undeserved love is infinitely generous. Perhaps Paul says it best as he insists that he prays in accordance with ‘…the riches of his glory’.
And so Paul asks – on behalf of the communities his letter will touch – for inner strength, Spirit power, the indwelling Christ. The result: that they may be ‘…rooted and grounded in love…’
Love as foundation.
Paul knows he asking for something beyond his capacity to deliver. His very language recognises that he is asking the impossible: to ‘comprehend’ the incomprehensible; to understand of that which ‘surpasses knowledge’, and; to hope for more than ‘we can ask or imagine’. He is praying for a community that will live out of the ‘in Christ’ mystery.
A community that will live the love of God.
It is so important to see that Paul’s prayer infused with trinitarian language. Father, Son, and Spirit are all invited to do their work among these communities. A prayer for such revelation could do nothing else. After all, this is the way God has been revealed to creation – as a community of perfect love.
God as a lone, singular, independent force is not love. God as two is a duality – all too often manifesting as opposition.
God, however, as three is a community. Perfect love – at the heart of all that is. Followers of Jesus make the audacious claim that God has been revealed in a perfectly loving community. As John says in his first letter, ‘God is love’.
And we are called to model our lives on this extraordinary reality.
May Paul’s prayer be prayed among us always!
Have you thought of the trinity as perfect love before? How does this impact you?
Do you pray from the conviction that God is perfect grace? How would a deeper understanding of the grace of God reshape your prayers?
How dependent are we on God answering this prayer for such love to become reality among us? What would happen if we prayed this prayer ourselves?